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Directors of institutes for advanced study define international network guidelines for the next two years

by Richard Meckien - published Apr 02, 2018 02:45 PM - - last modified Jul 31, 2018 10:52 AM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Mauro Bellesa.

Diretores de IEAs participantes de reunião da Ubias no IEA-USP - 21/3/2018
Directors and representatives of the member institutes of the international network UBIAS during the meeting at the IEA-USP

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Meeting at the IEA-USP and for the first time in the American continent, directors of the member institutes of the international network UBIAS (University-Based Institutes for Advanced Study) analyzed the activities carried out within the entity in the last two years and set administrative and academic issues for the 2018/2020 biennium. One of the decisions was the choice of IEA-USP's deputy director, Guilherme Ary Plonski, as the new coordinator of the network, which was expanded during the meeting with the entry of five more institutes, totalizing 44.

The conference, held from March 19 to 23, addressed the statutes of UBIAS, and the initial analysis of topics for the next Intercontinental Academia - a project that brings together two member institutes from different continents to study a common theme - and the IEA Topic of the Year in 2019. Among the subjects under discussion for these two projects there are: false and fact, water, conscious machines, and knowledge and freedom. The work of detailing, analyzing and choosing the definitive themes will continue online.

At the opening ceremony, USP's Provost for Research Sylvio Roberto Accioly Canuto highlighted the importance of holding the conference and the coordination of the Dean of Research with the IEA-USP. Therefore, also with UBIAS in the promotion of interdisciplinary studies. Canuto explained that this is done through the support to the Sabbatical Year Program and the hiring of visiting professors by the Institute, as well as the partnership in the realization of the Strategic Workshops (also supported by the São Paulo State Academy of Sciences), which have already addressed issues such as nanotechnology, bioeconomics, biotechnology, innovation, research ethics and various environmental science topics.

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Read more news on UBIAS network and the Intercontinental Academia

"To benefit humanity we need to understand the need for science, the logical explanations it provides, and deal with the principles of people and nations. That is the reason for the existence of the institutes for advanced study," said IEA-USP's director Paulo Saldiva. He has stressed the importance of obtaining a cross-disciplinary view, "because the world is complex and complicated, and we end up artificially separating knowledge in domains in order to have a clearer vision of areas that can benefit humanity."

Morten Kyndrup e Guilherme Ary Plonski - 20/3/2018
Guilherme Ary Plonski (right), new UBIAS coordinator, is greeted by his predecessor, Morten Kyndrup

Also at the opening, the director of the University of Aarhus's IAS and coordinator of UBIAS in the last two years, Morten Kyndrup, discussed the reason for the existence of the network and the very concept of institutes for advanced study.

For him, to allow the exchange of experiences is a fundamental reason. "Most IASs are relatively young, which makes the exchanging of best practices extremely useful." But it is not just an exchange of academic experiences. Kyndrup also considers the dialogue on the characteristics and difficulties of the relationship between the institutes and their host universities to be relevant.

Alongside the sharing of part of the university structure, institutes need to have a certain level of autonomy, Kyndrup said, which "makes a sort of ambivalence between dependency and independence inevitable." Another issue that brings some vulnerability to the IASs is funding, he said. "In times of financial hardship, universities need to have some flexibility with the institutes."

Kyndrup said it is of great relevance for UBIAS to build and develop the IAS concept. "Historically, this concept is tied to a symbolic value: prestige. This is important in attracting the best researchers." However, dealing with the IAS concept poses a strong dilemma even for UBIAS: "How do we negotiate the desire to be inclusive in the evaluation of IASs interested in participating in the network and at the same time maintain certain standards in line with the concept?"

Criteria for an institute to integrate UBIAS:

  • to have a program with a selective process to grant scholarships to foreign researchers;
  • to integrate an internationally recognized research university;
  • to have programs that promote interdisciplinarity;
  • to interact with the whole university and therefore not being bound only to a discipline, department or unit (this is assessed in function of the mission, organizational structure and leadership of the institute).

The practical solution adopted by UBIAS is to have different levels of association, he explained. "We have agreed on a policy of welcoming all those interested in the meetings and topics under discussion, but maintaining criteria for a complete association with the network, that is, keeping us closed, but completely open."

In order to collaborate with Guilherme Ary Plonski in the coordination of the network, two new deputy coordinators have been chosen: Raouf Boucekkine, director of IMéRA (one of the four members of the French Network of IASs), at Aix-Marseille University, and Hisanori Shinohara, director of the Institute for Advanced Research (IAR) at Nagoya University. (Update: for personal reasons, Shinohara has not been able to take over the deputy coordination and has been replaced by Clarissa Ball, Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Western Australia.)

Besides the three members of the coordination, other seven members for the Steering Committee have been chosen: Clarissa Ball, from the IAS at the University of Western Australia; Bernd Kortmann, from the IAS at the University of Freiburg; Michal Linial, from the IAS at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Morten Kyndrup, from the IAS at the University of Aarhus; Jane Ohlmeyer, from the Trinity Long Room Hub at the Trinity College Dublin; and Véronique Zanetti, from the Center for Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Bielefeld. (Update: Clarissa Ball has been replaced by Yoshiyuki Suto, from the IAR at Nagoya University.)

Another organizational decision was the membership approval for five IASs into the network, among them the IEAT-UFMG, Institute of Advanced Transdisciplinary Studies at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, which is now part of the network's Brazilian representation alongside the IEA-USP and the Institute of Advanced Studies at UNICAMP (IDEA), recreated in December 2017. The other new members of UBIAS are: the Zukunftskolleg at the University of Konstanz; the IAS at the University of Cergy-Pontoise; the IAS at the University of Warwick; and the IAS at the University of Amsterdam.

Photos: Leonor Calasans / IEA-USP